Duterte meets ‘hero’ Putin

LIMA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday met the man he calls his hero, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and unburdened his gripes about US “hypocrisy,” “bullying” and foreign wars.

Duterte, who has publicly expressed his admiration for the Russian leader, said the Cold War had stood between their two countries as the Philippines, a former US colony, was historically identified with the West.

But that has changed now that he is president.

Since taking office in June, the foul-mouthed Duterte has upended the Philippines’ historical military alliance with the United States, repeatedly saying he was shifting toward China and Russia as he embarks on an independent foreign policy.

“It was good (while) it lasted,” Duterte told Putin of what he has called his “separation” from the US.

“Of late, I see a lot of these Western nations bullying small nations. And not only that, they are into so much hypocrisy,” he said during their 45-minute meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Peruvian capital Lima.

“And they seem to start a war but are afraid to go to war. That is what is wrong with America and the others. They’ve been waging wars in so many places — in Vietnam, in Afghanistan and in Iraq for one single reason that there was a weapon of mass destruction, and there was none.”

Duterte also said the US “forced” the Philippines to contribute soldiers in its wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

When Manila pulled out non-combat troops that were part of the US-led coalition against Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2004 following threats to behead a kidnapped Filipino worker there, Washington “made it hard for us,” Duterte told Putin in a video shot by the Philippine presidential palace broadcast team.

“These are the things I see which is not a good idea,” Duterte said in English.

He also said the Philippines longed to be part of Europe.

“We’ve been longing to be part also of — despite the distance — we have been longing to be part of Europe, especially in commerce and trade around the world.”

Duterte, who has cultivated an image as a no-nonsense leader, said last month that “my favourite hero is Putin.”

He has also said that he and Putin seem to share a passion for guns and women.

Favourite targets for his abusive verbal tirades are US President Barack Obama, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the European Union.

All three have expressed concern over Duterte’s iron-fisted policy against drugs, which they said violated human rights and due process.

Duterte missed the gala dinner at the APEC summit Saturday evening, sending a message to the hosts that he was sick.

Staying put in his hotel may have avoided a potentially awkward encounter with Obama, who cancelled a meeting with him at another summit in September after Duterte called him a “son of a whore.”

myanmar zika

Myanmar struggles to prepare for Zika outbreak

YANGON — Myanmar is largely unprepared for an outbreak of Zika, experts say, with the health ministry slashing anti-virus measures due to lack of funds, overworked doctors skipping check-ups and pregnant women saying they are in the dark about the dangers.

Zika has spread to some 60 countries and territories since the current outbreak was identified last year in Brazil, raising alarm over the rare birth defect microcephaly, as well as other neurological disorders it can cause in infants and adults.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Myanmar country head Dr Jorge M. Luna, warned Myanmar was likely to experience more cases of the mosquito-borne virus that has spread quickly in the region, with the number of infections doubling in Vietnam and 33 fresh cases confirmed in Thailand this week.

Myanmar detected its first Zika-infected patient more than two weeks ago, prompting pledges of increased monitoring and stepped up mosquito-prevention measures.

But more than a dozen interviews with pregnant women, doctors in public hospitals and government officials show the country of 51.5 million is struggling to inform the public about the virus or prevent it from spreading.

On a recent afternoon more than 100 pregnant women waited, some standing for more than three hours, in noisy, crowded corridors of the Yangon Central Women’s Hospital, the largest such institution in the country.

“I wanted to ask doctors some questions about Zika, but they are very busy because they have to see many pregnant women at the same time,” said San San Aye, 42. She had heard about Zika from a friend, but was unsure how it could affect her pregnancy.

Myanmar has only 0.6 physicians per 1,000 people, according to the WHO. Total expenditure on health stands at $20.3 (RM89.50) per person, and dilapidated and overcrowded hospitals often lack basic supplies.

A Reuters reporter visiting the Yangon hospital did not see any stickers or signs posted alerting or explaining Zika to the women. Healthcare workers said they did not know how to educate patients about the virus.

At smaller public hospitals nurses often carry out check-ups instead of specialist doctors, who sometimes do not turn up for scheduled appointments, reporters found when visiting two township-level hospitals on Yangon’s outskirts.

Dr Than Htun Aung, in charge of Zika emergency response and international relations at the Ministry of Health, said a shortage of doctors meant they could not always attend appointments. He said nurses were qualified to examine the women.

At hastily called news conference after the first case of Zika in Myanmar was confirmed, Dr Soe Lwin Nyein, who heads public health department at the Ministry of Health, has urged women to avoid pregnancies in the next six months.

The statement has confused some Myanmar healthcare specialists, who said they did not understand the reasoning behind the recommendation, and whether it meant no more Zika cases were expected after the six-month period.

That made them reluctant to discuss the risks with patients, doctors and nurses told Reuters.

Luna said the organisation’s guidelines were to give couples full information about potential risks and impact on newborns, but the decision on whether to have children was up to the couple.

“You have to give them information, good information, what is going on, and it’s the couple’s choice,” said Luna.

Than Htun Aung, at the health ministry, said medical specialists were trained about Zika guidelines last week.

“During the training, we told them how to give instructions to patients on how to avoid sexually transmitting Zika,” he said.

But in Yangon, Dr Tun Lwin, who heads the regional public health authority, said Zika was not the priority, compared with sometimes fatal dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases. He said the regional government did not provide funds to local staff to carry out public health campaigns about the virus, but some staff members campaigned spending their own money.

Than said measures to control mosquitoes in cities were progressing slowly because of a lack of staff and funding.

He added the government wanted to test all pregnant women, travellers, and foreigners, but “we do not have the budget to test them because the tests are expensive”. — Reuters

All hospitals in eastern Aleppo bombed

BEIRUT — All hospitals in Syria’s besieged rebel-held eastern Aleppo are out of service after days of heavy air strikes, its health directorate and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, though a war monitor said some were still functioning.

White House national security adviser Susan Rice said the United States condemned “in the strongest terms” the latest air strikes against hospitals and urged Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to take steps to halt the violence.

Intense air strikes have battered the eastern part of the city since Tuesday, when the Syrian army and its allies resumed operations after a pause lasting weeks. They launched ground attacks against insurgent positions on Friday.

War monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 48 people, including at least five children, had been killed on Saturday by dozens of air strikes and barrel bombs and dozens of artillery rounds.

That brings the number of people killed by the increased bombardment of Aleppo and the surrounding countryside over the past five days to about 180, including 97 in the city’s besieged eastern sector, the observatory added.

Warplanes, artillery and helicopters continued bombarding eastern Aleppo on Saturday, hitting many of its densely populated residential districts, the Observatory said. There were intense clashes in the Bustan al-Basha district, it added.

“This destruction of infrastructure essential to life leaves the besieged, resolute people, including all children and elderly men and women, without any health facilities offering life-saving treatment … leaving them to die,” said Aleppo’s health directorate in a statement late on Friday by an opposition official.

Elizabeth Hoff, the WHO representative in Syria, said on Saturday that a UN-led group of aid agencies based over the border in Turkey “confirmed today that all hospitals in eastern Aleppo are out of service”.

The monitoring group said some hospitals were still operating in besieged parts of Aleppo but said many residents were frightened to use them because of the heavy shelling.

Medical sources, residents and rebels in eastern Aleppo say hospitals have been damaged by air strikes and helicopter barrel bombs in recent days, including direct hits on the buildings.

However, with the US awaiting the inauguration in late January of President-elect Donald Trump, who has been critical of Washington’s Syria policy without laying out detailed plans himself, diplomatic efforts appear stalled.

Both Russia and Assad’s government have denied deliberately targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure during the war, which began in 2011 and was joined by Russia’s air force in September 2015.

Russia unilaterally called a ceasefire in late October and said on Saturday it was now only striking against groups that are not also observing it. Rebel groups in Aleppo have all said they do not recognise the Russian ceasefire.

The charity Doctors Without Borders said in a message there had been more than 30 hits on hospitals in eastern Aleppo since early July. “Doctors are few and medical supplies are depleted, with no possibility of sending more supplies in,” it said.

Health and rescue workers have previously been able to bring damaged hospitals back into operation but a lack of supplies is making that harder — Reuters

romney trump

Romney in symbolic hard-won party unity

BEDMINSTER (New Jersey) — President-elect Donald Trump and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney set aside a fierce rivalry on Saturday and held talks likely to feed speculation that Romney could be in line to be the next US secretary of state.

After a day of meetings, Trump emerged to tell reporters that his search process was going “really efficiently” and that he had spoken to “really, really talented” people who could form part of his Cabinet.

Trump said he might have some announcements on Sunday. He spoke highly of retired Marine General James Mattis, who transition officials said was a strong contender for defence secretary.

Earlier, Trump and Romney emerged from their meeting after an hour and 20 minutes, and Trump told reporters their talks “went great.” Romney said the pair “had a far-reaching conversation with regards to the various theaters in the world.”

“We discussed those areas, and exchanged our views on those topics — a very thorough and in-depth discussion in the time we had,” Romney said. “And I appreciate the chance to speak with the president-elect and I look forward to the coming administration and the things that it’s going to be doing.”

Trump’s team said in a statement that Trump and Romney held a “substantive and in-depth conversation about world affairs, national security and the future of America.”

“It was an extremely positive and productive conversation,” the statement said.

Trump met for an hour with Mattis. Asked if Mattis would be his defence secretary, Trump said, “He’s a great guy. He is some great man.”

The Trump team statement said Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence were “very impressed” with Mattis.

“They had an incredibly in-depth conversation on plans for national security. The discussion included IS, the Middle East, North Korea, China, Nato and other hotspots around the world,” the statement said.

Romney, who was a leader of the establishment Republican “never Trump” movement that tried to block Trump from becoming the nominee, was first in a long list of people Trump was meeting with on Saturday and Sunday as he seeks to fill out his Cabinet and gather advice ahead of his Jan. 20 move to the White House.

In March, Romney said Trump would be dangerous as president, with policies that could touch off a recession. Romney also said, “I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.”

Trump had denounced Romney as a “choke artist” for losing the 2012 election to President Barack Obama.

But with the New York real estate developer now president-in-waiting, Romney’s appearance at Trump National Bedminster on an unseasonably warm November day was symbolic of hard-won party unity.

Whether Romney will join the Trump administration is unclear. Romney, a more mainstream Republican, would serve alongside more hawkish Trump appointees named on Friday: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as attorney general, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Representative Mike Pompeo as CIA director.

Those nominations suggest Trump is setting up his administration to take a hard line confronting Islamist militancy and curbing illegal immigration.

A Romney confidant said of Romney’s secretary of state prospects: “Could it happen? I suppose. But it’s unlikely.”

Instead, the source said the meeting gives “the good housekeeping seal of approval to Republicans who don’t know if they should help Trump or not.”

Trump has been considering former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close adviser, for secretary of state, as well as former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Trump is to meet Giuliani on Sunday.

Also on Saturday, Trump met with Andy Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants, the fast-food giant that operates the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains. Afterwards, Trump said he was “getting very close” to making some Cabinet decisions.

Puzder, a possible labour secretary, said he would be “proud to serve in any position that this president asks me to serve in.” — Reuters

Trump demands apology from ‘Hamilton’ cast

NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday demanded an apology from the cast of “Hamilton” for appealing from the stage to Mike Pence to “uphold our American values” while the vice-president-elect was attending a performance of the Broadway hit.

“The Theatre must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologise!” Trump wrote on Twitter, taking time out from his search for appointees to his incoming administration.

“Our wonderful future VP Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theatre by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” Trump wrote.

A mix of boos and cheers greeted Pence, a Republican, as he entered the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York on Friday night to watch the highly acclaimed rap musical about the country’s founding fathers, whose colour-blind cast features African-American and Latino actors portraying the country’s founding fathers, all of whom were white.

After the show, Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays America’s third vice president, Aaron Burr, read a statement directed at Pence while standing in front of the cast in full costume.

“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” Dixon said.

Pence had already begun to leave his seat as Dixon began his remarks, videos posted on social media showed.

“We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us,” Dixon said as audience members cheered and clapped.

Trump’s remarks triggered a barrage of posts on Twitter, most of which were critical of the president-elect.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that the “Hamilton” cast was exercising the right to free speech and that Trump was wrong to criticize them for doing so.

“The apology should instead come from President-elect Trump for calling into question the appropriateness of the Hamilton cast’s statements,” Romero said.

A show spokesman said Pence stood in the hallway outside the entrance to the auditorium and heard the full remarks, The New York Times reported. — Reuters


Tintin drawing sells for record RM7m in Paris

PARIS — An original drawing from the popular Tintin adventure Explorers on the Moon sold for a record €1.55 million (RM7.23 million) at a Paris auction on Saturday, auction house Artcurial announced.

The 50 cm X 35 cm drawing in Chinese ink by the Belgian cartoonist known as Herge shows the boy reporter, his dog Snowy and crusty sailor Captain Haddock wearing spacesuits and walking on the Moon while looking at Earth.

It had been expected to sell for between €700,000 and €900,000 (between RM3.27 million and RM4.2 million).

“It’s simply fantastic! It’s an exceptional price for an exceptional piece,” said Artcurial’s comics expert Eric Leroy.

He described the Explorers on the Moon as “a key moment in the history of comic book art … it has become legendary for many lovers and collectors of comic strips”.

“It is one of the most important from Herge’s postwar period, on the same level as Tintin in Tibet and The Castafiore Emerald,” he said.

Later in the day, another drawing from Explorers on the Moon sold for €602,500 (RM2.81 million) at rival auction house Christie’s, also in Paris.

The 1954 book is viewed as one of Herge’s masterpieces.

Saturday’s sale was a record for a single cartoon drawing. In 2012, the 1932 cover illustration of Tintin in America fetched €1.3 million (RM6.06 million).

Herge already holds the world record for the sale of a comic strip.

A double-page ink drawing that served as the inside cover for all the Tintin adventures published between 1937 and 1958, sold for €2.65 million (RM12.36 million) to an American fan two years ago.

Original Tintin comic book drawings have been fetching millions at auctions over the last few years.

In February 2015, the original cover design for The Shooting Star almost matched the record when it was sold for €2.5 million (RM11.66 million).

Back in May, the original artwork for the last two pages of the King Ottokar’s Sceptre book sold for US$1.2 million (RM5.3 million) while in October of last year a double page slate from the same Tintin book fetched more than €1.5 million (RM7 million).

That same month, an Asian investor paid US$1.2 million (RM5.3 million) for a drawing from The Blue Lotus book, published in 1936, of Tintin and Snowy in Shanghai.

Alongside the moon drawings, Artcurial also sold 20 ink sketches Herge created for a series of New Year’s greeting cards known as his “snow cards”.

The drawings, including Tintin and Snowy skiing, or hapless detectives the Thompson twins ice-skating, brought in €1.5 million (RM7 million).

In total, the sale of cartoon drawings at Artcurial fetched €4.45 million (RM20.76 million) on Saturday.

Prices for cartoon art have multiplied tenfold in the last decade, according to gallery owner Daniel Maghen, who also works with comic art.

Herge sold some 230 million Tintin albums by the time of his death in 1983. — AFP


Hidden Bergman ‘masterpiece’ to hit Swedish screens

STOCKHOLM — Discovered in Ingmar Bergman’s archive, a previously unknown manuscript about sexual and social revolution in the 1960s is to be turned into a movie, nearly a decade after the Swedish director’s death.

Sixty-four minutes with Rebecka, written by the legendary filmmaker when he was aged 51, was found in 2002 when Bergman donated his work to an institute in his name, shelved among thousands of letters, completed screenplays and photographs.

“Finding an unknown but finished Ingmar Bergman screenplay would be the equivalent of finding a manuscript by Hemingway or if not Shakespeare,” Jan Holmberg, head of the Ingmar Berman Foundation, said.

Known for broaching issues of death, loneliness and religious self-doubt, Bergman portrays the main character Rebecka as an emotionally alienated teacher of deaf mutes, seeking sexual and political liberation during the tumultuous 1960s.

“This is the mature artist at his very best, making one of his masterpieces,” Holmberg said.

The married Rebecka visits a sex club while she is pregnant and decides to leave her forgiving husband in the hand-written script, which touches on gay relationships, desire, guilt and mental suffering.

Bergman, who was an introverted and conservative filmmaker, portrays the era’s frenetic sexual and social revolution in the script, which was originally meant to be a movie collaboration between Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa, a trio of directing giants.

Fellini had contacted Bergman in 1962 to ask if the Swedish director would be interested in filming a joint movie series with Kurosawa, who years later dropped out for unknown reasons, according to Holmberg.

In 1968, Bergman and Fellini signed a Hollywood contract to turn the script into a joint motion picture, but when the Italian screenwriter did not keep his part of the agreement, Bergman was offered to direct the film by himself.

Suffering a major blow to profits because of the emergence and dominance of television in the 1960s, the US film industry began to diversify, drawing inspiration from European cinema.

Holmberg said several letters sent back and forth between Bergman and movie executives indicated “an increasingly irritated atmosphere, where the movie companies suddenly wanted the film to be longer than what had been thought earlier” to turn it into a TV series.

He noted that the script has “many daring sex scenes, homosexuality and violent sexuality which would never have been shown on American TV in the 60s”. — AFP


Kovalev cries foul after Ward stunner

LOS ANGELES — Sergey Kovalev accused American judges of favouring Andre Ward after the Russian suffered a controversial defeat by decision in their world light heavyweight title battle on Saturday.

Many neutrals at ringside believed Kovalev — who scored the fight’s only knockdown when he sent Ward to the canvas in the second round — had done enough to retain his WBA, WBO and IBF crowns.

But the three US judges scoring an attritional bout at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena all gave more weight to Ward’s disciplined display over the closing stages, when he landed scoring blows as the previously unbeaten Kovalev tired.

All three judges scored it 114-113 in Ward’s favour, improving the 2004 Olympic champion’s record to 31-0 with 15 knockouts.

Kovalev however was distraught at the loss, which he suggested was influenced by his nationality.

“It’s the wrong decision. But I don’t want to give my opinion. Everybody is here, witnesses are here, everybody saw what happened,” he said.

“He got maybe a few rounds. But not the whole fight. I kept control. I lost maybe three rounds. Look at his face and look at my face.

“I’m a guest and he’s a local, and all the judges are from the United States. I agree they support their boxer but honestly, this is sport. Don’t make it like politics.”

The statistics from a gripping 12-rounder reflected the closeness of the battle.

Kovalev landed more punches, 126-116, and more power punches, 78 to 61.

Ward however, who stepped up a division to take on Kovalev landed more jabs, 55-48.

Ward was unfazed by Kovalev’s grievances.

“I can’t do anything about controversy. I thought I won the fight,” Ward said.

“It was a close fight. You never know how judges are going to see it. But take nothing away from Kovalev.”

The tight nature of the contest makes a rematch almost inevitable.

Asked if he would face Ward again, Kovalev replied: “Sure — and I’ll kick his ass.” — AFP

In brief

Hull birdies way to top

MIAMI — Britain’s Charley Hull, who has not won in more than two years, fired a six-under 66 to grab a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the LPGA Tour Championship. The 20-year-old from England birdied the course’s four par-5 holes — the first, sixth, 14th and 17th — and the par-4 10th and 13th as well in a bogey-free round to stand on 13-under 203. American Brittany Lincicome also fired a 66 to stand second on 204 alongside South Korean Ryu So-yeon, who shot 69. New Zealand’s world No 1 Lydia Ko had a chance to grab a share of the lead with a birdie on the closing hole but took a bogey to finish a round of 73 and share fourth on 205 with South Korea’s Chun In-gee, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and Americans Jennifer Song and Lizette Salas. — AFP

Spieth takes home crown

SYDNEY — Two-time Major champion Jordan Spieth won the Australian Open for the second time in three years after defeating Ashley Hall and Cameron Smith in a sudden-death playoff in Sydney yesterday. Spieth won at the first playoff hole with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th green at Royal Sydney Golf Club as Hall was unable to convert from eight feet to extend the playoff.The world No 5 shot a final round three-under 69 to join clubhouse leaders Hall and Smith at 12-under, needing a par putt from seven feet on the 72nd hole to get into the playoff. Smith — who shot a final round 66 — missed a 40-foot birdie putt in the playoff. Hall, the world No 902, made eight birdies to card a 66, but could only make par at the playoff hole. — AFP

Hull birdies way to top

MIAMI — Britain’s Charley Hull, who has not won in more than two years, fired a six-under 66 to grab a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the LPGA Tour Championship. The 20-year-old from England birdied the course’s four par-5 holes — the first, sixth, 14th and 17th — and the par-4 10th and 13th as well in a bogey-free round to stand on 13-under 203. American Brittany Lincicome also fired a 66 to stand second on 204 alongside South Korean Ryu So-yeon, who shot 69. New Zealand’s world No 1 Lydia Ko had a chance to grab a share of the lead with a birdie on the closing hole but took a bogey to finish a round of 73 and share fourth on 205 with South Korea’s Chun In-gee, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and Americans Jennifer Song and Lizette Salas. — AFP

Watch me go next year, says Raonic

LONDON — Same opponent, same old story for Milos Raonic but despite a sixth defeat of the year by Andy Murray at the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday the Canadian underlined he will be a player to fear next year.

Raonic’s heartbreaking 5-7, 7-6 (5-7), 7-6 (11-9) semifinal loss made it a hattrick of reverses in London alone this year against Murray, following two in quick succession at the Queen’s Club and Wimbledon finals.

This one was particularly galling as he frequently outplayed the world No 1 and had a match point in the final-set tiebreak before bowing out after three hours 38 minutes of toe-to-toe combat against the home favourite.

“I have to be proud I finished the year with giving it every ounce of energy I had. I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel like crap,” said Raonic who is still without a career win against a resident world No 1.

The 25-year-old, who this year became the first Canadian man to reach a Grand Slam final, pushed Novak Djokovic hard in a fiercely-contested match earlier this week and will finish the year at a career-high third in the rankings.

With serial Major winners Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal starting to slide, Raonic has emerged as the man most likely to begin his Grand Slam collection in 2017 as long as the injuries that have nagged his progress stay away.

“The goal is going to be to continue to stay healthy. That’s the one thing that’s been sort of my kryptonite,” he said.

“Rather than making momentum and progress I can sometimes take myself two steps back. I sort of have to reset myself, whether that be through injuries or other issues.” — Reuters

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